By coming together to support the next generation of diverse fashion talent, Harlem’s Fashion Row has forged a partnership with LVMH North America through which the two organizations will work toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive fashion industry.
Revealing the partnership at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Whitby Hotel in New York, the partnership marks a commitment by LVMH to support HFR’s mission to discover, mentor and showcase emerging talent of color through multi-platform events. high visibility and personalized programs.
LVMH has committed resources to address diversity, equity and inclusion issues across the industry through people, business and brand initiatives, and to support the next generation of diverse talent.
One of the key initiatives revealed at Wednesday’s press conference is that LVMH will be the title sponsor of the 15th annual Harlem’s Fashion Row New York fashion show and style awards on September 6 in Harlem.
The goal of the partnership is to open the doors to the next generation of talented Black, Indigenous and People of Color designers and to connect emerging Black designers with global luxury brands across the LVMH group, ranging from Louis Vuitton and Tiffany to Christian Dior, Fendi and Zipporah.
“This is the largest partnership we’ve had in North America and we couldn’t be more excited about it. Of course, there is an D&I component to this, but first and foremost it is about celebrating Harlem’s incredible wealth of heritage, history, culture, art and innovation and bringing that into our world. We search the world for creative talent, it is our competitive advantage. It is the future of each of our brands,” said Anish Melwani, CEO of LVMH North America.
“Through this partnership, HFR and LVMH North America look forward to continuing their mission of giving designers of color access to people and organizations that can help them shape their future,” said Brandice Daniel, CEO and Founder of HFR. . “We have successfully introduced a host of diverse designers to a world-class fashion curriculum consisting of invaluable tools and resources to grow their businesses and educated Gen Z on how they, too, can change the course of fashion. . Together, we have created opportunities for youth to get involved as early as high school, meeting the marginalized, particularly HBCU students in their fashion careers.”
Brands from across the LVMH portfolio, including Tiffany and Louis Vuitton, will continue to collaborate with HFR to offer mentorship and activation opportunities throughout the year and beyond. Some examples of supported initiatives include:
- THE HFR Icon 360 HBCU Summit: The HBCU Summit seeks to transform art and fashion programs at historically black colleges and universities in the US by providing direct design expertise from industry experts. In collaboration with HFR and North Carolina A&T State University A&T Department of Art and Fashion, Tiffany & Co. will sponsor Tenacity Talks, a 10-week series of conferences featuring industry experts on topics such as jewelry design and the innovation.
- HFR Designers Retreat – This three-day retreat hosted over 75 designers and featured several fashion speakers. During “Industry Stops,” designers were able to tour Louis Vuitton’s North American offices and meet with executives, including Lanessa Elrod, Zone President and CEO, and Thomas Haupt, Senior Vice President of US Retail.
- Black History Month Summit – Providing a forum for conversation with industry leaders, LVMH’s Melwani and Vice President of D&I Corey Smith joined Daniel to discuss the current state of diversity in fashion.
Smith said: “LVMH is committed to making a positive impact in our communities and carrying forward the path laid out by Virgil Abloh and others who helped advance equity and inclusion in the fashion industry by supporting and building a pool of creative talent. diverse. It is critical for LVMH as an organization to continue to develop color talent internally, while ensuring the relevance of our brands and products in a diverse and evolving consumer landscape. We see this partnership with HFR as a wonderful opportunity to focus on values, culture, business and community all at the same time, as these notions are not mutually exclusive, but interconnected and mutually reinforcing.”
Daniel explained how the two organizations came together and how it is working so far. “We are very excited about our partnership with LVMH. We had a conversation last year in the offices, and that conversation has created such a rich partnership with some different initiatives. They really have been amazing partners,” said Daniel. She said that HFR has always been very careful about the brands it partners with, “and this brand is really getting the job done.”
According to Melwani, she was introduced to the organization at HFR’s 14th annual fashion show and understood “how it taps into this incredible wealth of talent right here in our backyard.”
He also said that as he got to know the organization and its designers, he realized that they share many of the same values. “LVMH’s values are entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and a commitment to excellence, all of which are consistent with Harlem Fashion Week’s programs,” said Melwani.
Gena Smith, director of human resources for LVMH North America, said the company has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and launched its first job in 2011. She said the number one core value at LVMH is its people. “People make the difference. Everything we have at LVMH and all the reasons for our group’s success come down to people,” she said. She said that it is the people who make the product, market it and talk about it. “How do we make sure the best, smartest, most creative people want to work for LVMH?” she said.
Last year, Corey Smith also attended the 14th annual HFR show after joining LVMH during the pandemic. “His show of his was the first show I attended as a newbie in this industry during New York Fashion Week, and if there’s any other better way to get started in this industry, it’s that there isn’t. I was amazed. They took over an entire block of Harlem and made it phenomenal.” After he finished, he turned to Daniel and Felita Harris, director of strategy and revenue at HFR, and said, “I need this next year. The level of luxury, the attention to detail, the diversity and inclusion that was organic to the event.” He said there were people with disabilities and a variety of skin tones and colors and gender fluidity. “It physically manifested everything we’re trying to accomplish at LVMH in one show, and a lightbulb went off,” said Corey Smith.
He said LVMH wants to align with organizations that can help them do the things they might need help doing on their own. He also said that this association is two-way. “It’s not just about writing a big check and saying yes. It really is that we have things to offer, but they also have things that can help us learn,” said Cory Smith.
Melwani noted that it all boils down to what everyone learned from Virgil Abloh, the late artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. “Virgilio taught by doing, not just talking. In fact, he spoke very little. It was only after the murder of George Floyd that he came to us and he wanted to speak internally with all of our people. Otherwise, he spoke through his work. What he showed us, in this industry, there are so many barriers, there are so many privileges that need to be countered, and how difficult it is for any emerging designer to break through and just be seen and have his work discovered. He did this by bringing people with him, whether they were makeup artists, models, and other creative directors. Just making them visible and giving them access to this very privileged world… makes it better. For us, we still have a lot to learn as an organization and unfortunately we were not able to finish all the lessons from Virgil.”
Access is a big missing piece for color designers, Daniel said.
Corey Smith said they constantly talk about LVMH being relevant in the future. “We have a very rich brand heritage, a very rich brand DNA, it’s always looking back, all of our founders and how they started, very entrepreneurial. What is our future relevance? The only way we’re going to stay relevant in the future is if we start tapping into new creators, new designers. The future looks very different from the past. We have recognized it, we understand it and we embrace it. Again, it makes good business sense.”
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